Although this could very well be a picture of me finding a new treasure at a favorite nursery, it's actually an illustration by David Catrow for a children's book called Plantzilla.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Winter Walk-Off 2017

Each March, Les at A Tidewater Gardener hosts Winter Walk-Off.  Since we've had so much rain recently I kept waiting for a bit of blue sky.  On Wednesday, I finally gave up, and decided to walk in a different area from previous years.  I'm lucky to live within walking distance of a lot of interesting buildings.  First up is the old  Elks Hall.  Not that I'm old or anything but I remember singing in this hall sometime in the 80's (yes, the 1980's not the 1880's thank you very much.)

The Spanish Steps next to the building have always been the property of the City of Tacoma and have been maintained well.  However, the building, purchased by an out of state investor who refused all offers to purchase the building was sorely neglected.  What was once a gem has, over the last 30 years, lost most of it's sparkle.

In the fall, a temporary fence, festooned with signs construction banners was erected and much debris filled dumpsters.  One sometimes sees lights in an upstairs window but few other signs of progress are visible.  Hopefully the structure can be saved.

Enter Heroes Portland-based McMenamins  to save the day and rehab the building in their own artful way.  I greatly admire the sensitivity with which they treat historic buildings and look forward to watching the rebirth of this once grand building. See an interesting article and a video of the interior here and another video here.

Love this pediment ornament over a side door!  Someone has a sense of humor. 

Just across the street is Tacoma's old city hall.  McMenamins is interested in creating a hotel in this space but must first find sufficient funds for the Elk's Lodge project.

Another grand building that desperately needs help.

 Let's hope time doesn't run out for either of these beauties. 

In the same hood is this building.  Luckily, I see all of them on the way to and from work every day. 


More nifty buildings that have been saved.

Tacoma's Pantages Theater was beautifully renovated not too many years ago.  For interior images, look here. I've been delighted to experience both sides of the stage here.

Following the success of the Pantages  renovation, the Rialto, just up the street was restored a few years later.  I directed a choral group that was part of the re-opening week of performances here.  
This winter walk-off turned into an unintentional walk down memory lane for me.  Hope you enjoyed tagging along.


  1. Oh, I enjoyed this walk very much! Thanks for sharing it. The bike seat and handlebars "elk" is hilarious and very creative. I spend very little time in Tacoma, so seeing these cool old buildings through your eyes and hearing of your experiences working in some of them was wonderful.

  2. Tacoma is such a beautiful city, now that the aroma is gone...

    The architecture firm I used to work for does (or at least did) the McMenamins work. The Elks project was underway before I was laid off in 2010. That's a long project! Interestingly I also did my Walk-Off post today, and my skies were similarly grey.

  3. I love old buildings. With urban growth and real-estate development, saving them is almost impossible these days. Each one that gets a make over is a small victory.

  4. Such beautiful historic buildings - I hope they can be saved. They did a lovely job on the Rialto.

  5. It's great that your city is working with such a reputable firm to rehab these buildings. So many cities bow to the gods of development without any consideration for preserving their history.

  6. What a lot of great architecture. We just got back from two days in Milwaukee which also has lots of terrific 19thcentiry homes and factories. Lots of the big brick factories have been turned into condos.

  7. Tacoma has a chance to preserve some really beautiful old buildings. I'm glad to hear McMenamins is on the scene.

  8. what beautiful old buildings. It's a challenge, financially as well as culturally about how to preserve the best of these. I guess change is a challenge, in cities as well as in the garden.

  9. Thank you for this lovely walk in the rain. Some beautiful old architecture. I hope all can be restored.

    Happy Spring dear Peter, FlowerLady

  10. I thoroughly enjoyed your Walk-Off, and after looking at both videos, I think my city needs a McMenamin of its own. Sadly, we have few buildings left to save; most have already met their fate with a bulldozer. After seeing your posts over the years, I am fascinated by how Tacoma managed to get so many architecturally interesting buildings. My hometown of Richmond, Va. is the same way, though as much has been lost there, as has been saved.

    Did I spy a monkey puzzle?

  11. Amazing what you can find when you look at your surroundings with fresh eyes. Older buildings have so much more character than much of what is being built today. I always enjoy the walkoff posts and actually planned to do one of my own this year but time got away from me.

  12. Those buildings are so striking and add much character to your city. The rain is fitting for a post of so many buildings in need of saving. It's good to see McMenamin is on it.


Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! I love to hear your thoughts.